1985 Bears Coverage: Bear defense tops charts

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SHARE 1985 Bears Coverage: Bear defense tops charts

Every day of the 2015 Chicago Bears season, Chicago Sun-Times Sports will revisit its coverage 30 years ago during the 1985 Bears’ run to a Super Bowl title.

Bear defense tops charts

Kevin Lamb

Originally published Dec. 16, 1985

For the first time this season, the Bears lead the NFL in defense against the run, the pass and combined yardage. Only four teams have led in all three categories at the end of a season. The last was Minnesota in 1975.

In pass defense, they have climbed from 23rd to first in seven weeks. Their opponents averaged 108 yards in that stretch, with only Miami passing for more than 155 yards. Three of those opponents were among the top four passing offenses through 14 games.

Five teams are within reasonable striking distance of the pass defense lead. Philadelphia is 86 yards behind the Bears, Washington 104, Detroit 122 and the New York Giants 176. New England is 51 yards back but still must play its 15th game, tonight at Miami.

The rush defense lead is safer, 121 yards over the Giants. In total defense, the runner-up Giants are 297 yards behind.

The Giants and Redskins will play their final games Saturday, one day before the Bears’ game at Detroit.

R AND R: The Bears’ most serious injury appeared to be defensive tackle Steve McMichael’s sprained right knee. Punt returner Keith Ortego had a right knee bruise.

The players had yesterday off, their second day off in 19 days. Coach Mike Ditka left the office at 10 a.m., saying he planned to spend the day playing cards at his country club.

BATTERED: The only entry on the Bears’ injury report for Walter Payton yesterday was a stiff neck. After their 19-6 victory over the Jets Saturday, it looked as though it would be easier to list the places Payton didn’t hurt.

Sixteen of his 28 carries gained one yard or less, and nine of them lost yardage. “I was getting hit before I got the ball sometimes,” Payton said.

He said he wasn’t disappointed that his streak of 100-yard games ended at nine. “I’m just disappointed in the way we attacked them,” he said.

Payton didn’t explain what he didn’t like about the Bears’ attack – whether it was the types of running plays called, the lack of running plays against the wind in the third quarter or the enthusiasm of his teammates.

The Bears ran on 12 of their 16 plays against the wind in the first quarter, but only seven of 19 third-quarter plays were runs. Ditka said it was because the Jets adjusted. The 12 early runs gained 49 yards, the seven later runs gained nine yards.

But the third-quarter passing wasn’t much better: 1-for-7 (for 65 yards to Payton), two sacks and two scrambles netting nine yards.

PAPER TIGERS: Jets were criticized in yesterday’s New York papers for their third-quarter strategy. With the wind at their backs, they had eight runs and nine pass plays.

They completed 2-of-6 passes for 15 yards and lost 26 yards on three sacks.

“We were having a pretty hard time pass blocking,” coach Joe Walton said. He didn’t explain why the Jets only double-teamed

defensive end Richard Dent once all game. Dent forced two fumbles with third-quarter sacks, giving him five forced fumbles.

From the Jets’ standpoint, they lost the game in the third quarter, when they gained only 16 yards. They made three first downs, but fumbles followed two of them.

HOW’S THAT? The one time the Jets were close to the Bear goal line, wide receiver Wesley Walker said he cost his team a touchdown because he didn’t hear an audible. He said his concentration lapsed because the Bears were covering him with a linebacker, an assignment Otis Wilson and Wilber Marshall often have.

“I wasn’t even thinking,” Walker said. “I was just looking in front of me and thinking, `Boy, I got this linebacker on me. I can beat him.’”

Quarterback Ken O’Brien hoped a quick corner pattern would exploit the matchup. But Walker ran the original play over the middle.

FROZEN OUT: As bad as the wind was Saturday, Bear players said they were bothered more by the frozen turf than the gusts close to 30 m.p.h.

“From the numbers out to the sideline, it was all frozen,” wide receiver Dennis McKinnon said. “You couldn’t get any footing. That’s why so many people were falling down.”

Artificial turf is not all the same. The amount of padding between turf and concrete varies widely. Soldier Field has one of the softest artificial surfaces in the NFL, and the Bears appreciate it.

“Shame on whoever put that turf down here,” Steve McMichael said.

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